How should I recruit grad students to MSU CSE?

So, next May I'm starting as an assistant professor split between the Computer Science and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics departments at Michigan State U., and I'm interested in attracting as many good CS grad applicants as I can from the open source and bioinformatics communities. (I would also like to attract an experimental student or two, but blogging is probably not the right venue for that..)

I have some thoughts on how to do that, but I'd be interested in finding out what you all would be interested in hearing about. What sorts of things would make you forward on an advert to smart, young, academically-inclined college students? I'm not talking gimmicks here, but rather straightforward infodumps.

For example, I can confidently say that if you want to work on digital life, there is no better place in the world to apply: both Charles Ofria and Rich Lenski are at MSU (see the Devolab).

I hope that the same will be true for several of my interest areas, like metagenomics and regulatory genomics. In metagenomics and microbial ecology and metagenomics, for example, you cannot hope for better experimentalists (Jim Tiedge and Tom Schmidt, not to mention several younger faculty). There is a Quant Bio initiative that includes bioinformatics and systems biology. The new Gene Expression in Disease and Development initiative includes some very good people (Dave Arnosti and Lee Kroos, among others) working on regulatory genomics. I'm involved in all of these programs and initiatives, and (to be horribly immodest) I know the biology and the bioinformatics both, which makes me an excellent resource even if you're not working directly with me.

I've also gotten some interest in the idea of setting up a course of study on computational science, too -- think Software Carpentry -- that will probably end up being an adjunct to whatever students are actually working on -- bioinformatics, physics, CS, etc. The work remains to be done, but it's a clear necessity.

The real attraction to the kind of community I can reach with this blog, though, is that I'm going to lobby hard to get open source technologies and thought patterns introduced into the CS curriculum. "We" (by which I mean Rich Enbody and Bill Punch) have already switched one of the intro courses on programming over to Python, and I will be teaching an Intro to Web Dev course a year from now -- test-driven Web development with AJAX, Python/Quixote, and PostgreSQL. (Yes, it will be taught at both the practical and theoretical levels, don't worry; I intend to make it perfectly useless to both job seekers and academicians.)

I think there are tons of opportunities to introduce more open source stuff into the curriculum, and I'm not alone in the department -- I'm just the person most involved in OSS development, and hence the person most likely to do something about it ;). However, to do so, I will need to find students who can TA those classes, not to mention help convincing other faculty members that this is a good way to go.

So: digital life; cutting edge biology and bioinformatics; computational science; and/or open source. What's not to like?

Anyway, all this goes to say that if you know people who are interested in any of the above, please point them my way.

In particular, if you are an undergraduate with open-source programming experience (i.e. you have the code to show, and maybe a blog with technical musings) and you want a CS masters or PhD, apply and I'll do my best to get you through the admissions committee -- even if you don't want to work with me ;).

And if you want to hear more about the department, or think I should talk more about the grad program, please ask me questions. I have to confess to being new to the department,

cheers,

--titus

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